Do You Really Need Antivirus Software on Your Windows Device?

Windows devices are the most commonly used kinds of hardware currently available on the market. PCs, laptops, smartphones and all kinds of devices all use Windows operating systems and software. As ubiquitous as Windows is, it should be no surprise that it is also the target of most kinds of viruses. For that reason, a Windows antivirus tool is essential for your safekeeping online. Here, we’re going to look at why that is, what they do, and some examples of the tools you should be using and features you should be looking for.

What are Windows antivirus tools?

Without sounding alarmist, it’s perfectly reasonable to say that viruses are everywhere online. There are all kinds of dangerous software trying to trick users to download them, but there are also those that can infect and lurk behind perfectly legitimate and trustworthy websites. Because they are so good at avoiding detection and so tricky to delete manually, antivirus tools are essential for keeping your computer protected.

Essentially, antivirus software is designed to identify and delete viruses from your computer while minimizing the harm they cause. Many of them also provide proactive protection methods that stop more viruses from getting on your computer.

Most recent Windows devices come with Windows Defender, nowadays. This is their free anti-malware component and it does provide some useful protection. However, it’s not comprehensive. For that, you need to look at premium solutions that are built by companies whose single purpose is to hunt down and keep out viruses.

There are different versions of Windows, many of the older ones still being used by a significant portion of users. While Windows 10 users may enjoy the benefits of Windows Defender, that’s not true for all. If you’re using older systems, you have to find protection suited to them. The best antivirus for Windows XP is not the best antivirus for Windows 7. Make sure that you’re being specific in your approach. Different systems have different vulnerabilities, and the antivirus creators keep that in mind when designing their software.

How Windows antivirus software works

We have gone over the broad strokes of what a Windows antivirus will do, but many might be interested in learning how, exactly, they do it. Let’s start with the most widespread technique in virus protection software: scanning.

This is most often included in the free version of most antivirus software bundles. It performs a scan of the files on your computer, comparing them all to an ever-updated list of known viruses, identifying and deleting those that it finds. These scans can range from a single file to certain folders, to scanning the entire contents of your hard drive. Keeping your antivirus up-to-date is crucial to ensure that it’s able to recognize the newest threats. Viruses are always evolving, and antiviruses have to do the same.

Sometimes, antiviruses can even recognize new or unique types of viruses without downloading the “definitions” that make up its databases. It does this by recognizing some of the common traits associated with viruses, like if a piece of software is trying to open or access every executable program on your computer. This is known as “heuristics.” It’s not perfect, sometimes flagging safe programs, including other antivirus software, so it should be used with a pinch of salt and some common sense. If you know that a file isn’t a virus but it is being flagged as one by the heuristics system, keep that in mind.

Antivirus software also automatically scans files and programs. This is known as “on-access” scanning, resident scanning, real-time protection and more, which is always running in the background. It can warn you of files you’re about to open. This feature tends to be very quick, so most of the time it may feel like you’re running a program immediately, but your antivirus is checking it out first.

What you should look for in a Windows antivirus

What an antivirus does is essential to your computer’s protection, but when you’re choosing an antivirus, you should also look at what other functions it does. In particular, you should be looking at what the premiums versions offer, as the free versions tend to lack the features that can make your protection truly comprehensive.

Antiviruses are becoming something of a blanket term for all kinds of malware protection and that is worth noting. All viruses are malware, but not all malware are viruses. For instance, you should look at antiviruses like AVG, Norton, and McAfee, that also offers protection against spyware, which surveils your system and steals whatever data it can. Others like Kaspersky and Avast also offer protection against ransomware, which can lock up access to your computer and demand monetary compensation under the threat of completely wiping your system.

Proactive protection is becoming more and more crucial as threats become more sophisticated, too. The browser is the door by which most viruses enter, so safe browsing technology is highly recommended. Similarly, if you are an avid Twitter or Facebook user, social media protection and identity protection features from tools like McAfee can ensure that your identity isn’t stolen.

You can also look at the protection rates that antivirus software offers when choosing the right suite for you. Two of the best on the market right now are AVG and Avast, both of which have virus detection rates of 99.9%. In a test by the AV Comparative, Trend Micro was the only tool that managed a 100% protection rate, blocking 20011 viruses in a test environment. However, compared to AVG and Avast, it also had a higher rate of detecting false positives, i.e. alerting users to viruses when there were none to be found.

Again, when choosing an antivirus, make sure you’re choosing the right one for the operating system you’re using. Many antiviruses still support older versions of Windows.

It is always safe to assume that, if you’re using a Windows device, you are at risk from viruses. The right software can ensure that you’re kept protected, so it’s worth finding the right suite to invest in with this site.